A New Room for a New Year

Our winning living-room makeover, demonstrating great design and collaboration, is ready for its close-up.

Our winning living-room makeover, demonstrating great design and collaboration, is ready for its close-up.

When we invited readers to enter our living-room makeover contest last spring, we had no idea of the adventure we were about to begin. Hundreds of entries poured in from readers across the state, along with photos, facts, and comments about their need for a living-room upgrade.

As part of the entry process, readers were asked to vote for their favorite design by one of the four Designers’ Choice Award winners featured in our New Jersey Home & Garden Supplement (May). Robin Schultz, owner of Robin Schultz Interior Design in Norwood (201-767-0107), was the hands-down favorite, receiving the most votes. The lucky winners, the Root family of Basking Ridge, were selected from Schultz’s constituency, and the fun—and work—began. Schultz’s collaboration with Susan and Robert Root resulted in a room that’s a beautiful improvement in both function and aesthetic appeal.

Color, light, and scale were important elements in Robin Schultz’s design for the 13-by-20-foot room. Her first fabric selection was for the matching Marissa chairs from Lexington. The light-colored fabric and low height of the Fairfield bench near the bay window make the space feel open. Crown moulding, wall sconces, and torchieres with a rustic finish and buff fabric shades add an elegant, formal touch. Russ Nelson of Green Brook painted the room using Benjamin Moore’s Vellum on the walls and Ivory White on the ceiling and trim. The slipper chair (left foreground) was reupholstered by Metropolitan Window Fashions (formerly Fabricland), North Plainfield; window treatments from the company’s custom division. Other furniture, accessories, wall brackets, and Quoizel torchieres from Interior Motives, Flemington. Rug from Worldwide Wholesale Floor Coverings, Edison. Sconces from Door Décor, Bernardsville.

The Roots wanted a more comfortable living room for entertaining. Using an existing chest and a favorite family painting, Schultz created a bar area (right-hand corner). Granite-topped end tables serve as a coffee table, adding appeal with their unusual height and flexibility. Elements such as the corner urn, pedestal, and sconces draw the eye to different levels, making the space feel larger. Original artwork from Avila Fine Arts in Bedminster hangs over the 87-inch sofa. Decorative pillows by Metropolitan Window Fashions. End tables, urn, and pedestal from Interior Motives.


Since establishing her design practice in 1991, Robin Schultz says she has “done it all—kitchens, bathrooms, home offices”—in her work with a variety of residential and commercial clients in New Jersey and New York. To better serve the needs of clients who are purchasing second homes, she recently opened a satellite office in the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts.

Before becoming an interior designer, Schultz had a twenty-year career in advertising. Deciding to pursue her love of design, she returned to school, earning an associate degree in interior design from Parsons School of Design. She describes her philosophy as “a balance of creativity, elegance, and practicality.” We recently sat down to talk to her about the Roots’ living room makeover.

What was your first reaction upon seeing the room?
I can give you several answers for that. One is, It’s awfully small. I knew it was going to be a challenge to make it feel spacious and intimate at the same time.

What did you believe were the clients’ goals?
Susan and Bob made it clear that they wanted a room that was warm and inviting. It was important to them that the space worked well for entertaining.

What do you think works best in the room?
The color, from the paint to the fabrics. Everything just really comes together and helps it to feel like an intimate space, but not confining. The floor plan really works in look, flow, and scale.

What would you suggest to someone who is hiring an interior designer?
Make sure you feel comfortable with the person you are selecting. After all, they are going to be in your life for a while. Second, look beyond just style. A good designer can work in any style. More important is that the designer has experience in the scope of your project. If you’re redoing a kitchen or bathroom, for example, make sure they have done that type of work. Last but not least, budget is really important. A designer can design and shop for a client better if they are very clear on the budget.

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